Health and Emergency Services

Animal Care & Control

Canine Distemper
Canine Distemper is a common and often fatal disease of dogs. It is caused by a virus and is spread most often
when animals come in contact with the bodily secretions of other animals who are infected with the disease. Pet owners can also unknowingly bring the infection home on clothes, shoes or car tires. Even indoor pets are not
free from the threat of distemper as it is also an airborne virus and can infect pets through open windows and

Over 50% of dogs and 80% of puppies who become infected with distemper will die. Of those who survive,
many will have permanent damage to their nervous systems and will suffer from seizures or paralysis for the rest of their lives.

The symptoms most commonly associated with Distemper are red, runny eyes and a nasal discharge. Dogs seem to just have a cold at first but the disease worsens rapidly. Vomiting, diarrhea and fever soon develop, followed by various disorders of the nervous system. Fortunately, Canine Distemper is easily preventable. Puppies require a series of vaccinations beginning when they are six to eight weeks of age. These vaccinations are repeated at three to four week intervals until a high level of immunity is achieved. Yearly boosters thereafter keep dogs safe from infection. Currently, there are no drugs available that will cure Distemper. 

Watch this short video on How to Prevent Canine Distemper.

Feline Panleukopenia (Cat Distemper)
Feline Panleukopenia is a serious infectious disease. It is relatively common in unvaccinated cats and is often fatal, especially for young kittens. The feline Panleukopenia virus, also known as FPV, is easily spread by contact with a diseased animal or its secretions. Panleukopenia is often referred to as feline distemper because it produces symptoms similar to those displayed in dogs with distemper. These two diseases are different, however, and are not caused by the same virus. Any cat or kitten that has not been vaccinated against feline Panleukopenia is at risk. This is a hardy virus that can lurk in carpets and upholstery for years.

Cats can be infected by litter boxes, food bowls and even toys and clothes. Therefore, introducing an unvaccinated cat to a surroundings previously inhabited by a sick cat, puts her at great risk. Kittens are especially susceptible to feline distemper because their immune systems are often underdeveloped and cannot fight off the infection.

Symptoms: Symptoms of feline distemper usually show up within a week and a half of exposure to the virus. Sick cats often run a high fever, accompanied by apathy and loss of appetite. Vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain may also be present.

Treatment: If you suspect that your cat may have feline Panleukopenia, get her to the vet immediately.
Early detection and treatment is crucial for the cat survival and recovery.

Watch this short video on How to Prevent Cat Distemper.

The disease is caused by a highly contagious virus that is transmitted mostly by dogs orally contacting infected feces. Being a virus, they contain only DNA or RNA, and are not capable of reproducing unless they invade a cell. Once inside the cell they take over and force the cell to produce so many new virus particles that the cell eventually bursts, releasing these new virus particles into the bloodstream and tissues so they can invade other cells. The only thing that can stop this is the immune system.

The parvovirus is extremely small (the Latin word for small is parvo) - just 1 thimble full of stool can contain millions of virus particles. Incubation period varies from 5-10 days. As in many viral diseases of the intestinal tract, some dogs can pick up the disease and shed the virus without significant symptoms in themselves.

Symptoms: The majority of dogs presented with parvovirus show signs of fever, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea, and lack of appetite. In severe cases the diarrhea is very watery and frequently bloody, with a telltale odor. The virus is so strong that it literally causes the lining of the intestines to slough. It is painful to eat, and with the severe diarrhea and vomiting that is present, they rapidly become dehydrated. The also have a disruption in their electrolytes (sodium, potassium, chlorine) that adds to the weakness.

There is a complication that can occur from all the intestinal activity regarding vomiting and diarrhea. It is called an intussusception, which is literally a telescoping of the intestine into itself. This will cause the intestine to die, resulting in death of the pup. Treatment is surgical, unfortunately, these pups are in no shape for surgery. Luckily we do not encounter this very often, if at all.

In the peracute form of this disease the virus attacks the heart and causes rapid death. Fortunately, it is rare to encounter this nowadays.

Prevention: As with all infectious diseases, minimizing exposure from infected animals is the most effective means of prevention. Since infected dogs shed large amounts of virus in their stool, contamination is always a possibility. The virus is quite resistant in the environment, especially in public areas that are not disinfected. This is a good reason to keep your pup away from these areas until it is older, worm free, and had its full series of dog vaccines.
Since this disease occurs mostly in puppies, worms (internal parasites) and poor nutrition add susceptibility. Puppies should be wormed frequently until they are 3 months old.

Any dog you already have in the household before you exposed it to a parvo dog you recently brought in (whether it died or recovered from the parvo) should be current on its vaccines and should have minimal exposure, if possible, to the contaminated areas. It is rare for an adult dog that is current on its parvo vaccine (yearly boosters) to get parvo.
If you had a dog die of parvo we recommend thorough cleaning with diluted bleach (1:30 with water, or 4 ounces of Clorox in a gallon of water) and waiting 1-2 months before introducing a new dog to the area. Spray the yard as best as possible with a hose and keep new dogs away from the area for 1-2 months. Never put bleach on your dog.
Vaccines are highly effective. Ideally, we should vaccinate pups every 2 weeks starting at 6 weeks of age and lasting until 5 months of age. This is not realistic for most people though. Fortunately, parvo vaccines given at 8, 12, and 16 weeks of age are highly effective.

Watch this short video on How to Prevent Parvovirus in Dogs.

Rabies Control & Symptoms 
Rabies is a public health issue because it is a viral disease that is fatal in mammals, including man and domestic pets (dogs, cats, livestock). It is transmitted by the bite or scratch of an infected animal through their saliva. Rabies is preventable in domestic animals through routine vaccination, but is not curable after the onset of symptoms.

Types of quarantines

Animal vs. human: When any warm-blooded animal breaks the skin of a human with its teeth or nails, the human may be exposed to rabies.

Pet vs. wildlife: When a pet dog/cat has come in physical contact with a wild mammal. E.g. skunk, bat, raccoon, etc.

Gila County Rabies Control enforces the State laws that require all animals involved in a bite or scratch on a human to be quarantined for a period of 10 days after the date of bite. If the animal remains healthy for the 10 day period the State of Arizona, Veterinary Public Health Section, has advised it could not have been shedding the rabies virus in its saliva at the time of bite.

Rabies Virus
Rabies is a disease caused by a virus (Lyssavirus) found in the saliva of infected animals and is transmitted to other warm blooded animals, including humans by a bite, scratch or possible by contamination of an open cut. Deadly and costly, rabies ranks as one of the top zoonotic diseases in the United States and the world.

Rabies Prevention

Rabies Treatment for Human 


Questions or Further Information

If you have any questions regarding animal bites or rabies contact your local health department or Gila County Rabies Control at (928) 425-5882.